Holidays 2020: What the Bereaved Need From Family and Friends

This is the most shared post on the site.

When I wrote it, I was writing my personal feelings after a couple of years trying to fumble through holidays with friends and family. It was an honest expression of how hard it was and continues to be to navigate the stress-filled season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

I’m not sure I’ve grown any more skillful in fitting all the pieces together-especially as our family grows and moves in different directions-but I continue striving to keep the lines of communication open and to try to acknowledge and accommodate everyone’s needs as best I can.

❤ Melanie

“I know it is hard.  I know you don’t truly understand how I feel.  You can’t.  It wasn’t your child.

I know I may look and act like I’m “better”.  I know that you would love for things to be like they were:  BEFORE.  But they aren’t.

I know my grief interferes with your plans.  I know it is uncomfortable to make changes in traditions we have observed for years.  But I can’t help it I didn’t ask for this to be my life.

I know that every year I seem to need something different.  I know that’s confusing and may be frustrating.  But I’m working this out as I go.  I didn’t get a “how to” manual when I buried my son.  It’s new for me every year too.

Read the rest here: Grief and Holidays: What the Bereaved Need From Friends and Family

Holidays 2020: Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

One of the things I’m learning in this journey is that people are much more likely to listen and be willing to make accommodations for my tender heart if I approach them BEFORE the “big day”-whatever that may be.

And yes, it seems unfair that those of us carrying a load of grief are also the ones that have to alert others to the load we’re carrying, but that’s simply the way it is.

They don’t know what they don’t know.

So, if you need to change things around consider speaking up NOW instead of huffing off LATER.

Read the rest here: Grief, Holidays and Hard Conversations

Holidays 2020: Blessing the Brokenhearted

The question is starting to pop up with greater frequency in our closed bereaved parent groups: How do you make it through the holidays after child loss?

So for the next few days I’m going to share again from the many posts I’ve written in the past five years addressing different aspects of holiday planning, celebration, family dynamics and just plain survival for grieving parents, siblings and those who love them.

❤ Melanie

Most parents feel a little stressed during the holidays.

We used to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving before our 24/7 supercharged and super-connected world thrust us into hyper-drive.  Now we zoom past the first day of school on a highway toward Christmas at breakneck speed.

For bereaved parents, the rush toward the “Season of Joy” is doubly frightening.

Constant reminders that this is the “most wonderful time of the year” make our broken hearts just that much more out of place. Who cares what you get for Christmas when the one thing your heart desires–your child, alive and whole–is unavailable…

Read the rest here: Season of Joy: Blessing the Brokenhearted During the Holidays

Holidays 2020: Flexibility and Grace. That’s the Ticket.

I’ve written tons on trying to figure out how to have holidays after child loss.

I don’t share my ideas because I’m an expert or because I’ve figured it out.

Holidays have been hit or miss ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though I’ve had six years (this will be seventh) to try to get them *right*.

But a mama’s heartfelt request in a bereaved parents group got me thinking.

She asked that folks refrain from telling her how BAD holidays after loss are and tell her how she could work toward making them manageable or even GOOD again.

I was trying to distill what I’ve learned in all these years into a (relatively) short comment to encourage her heart.

And what I came up with was that flexibility and grace were the keys that opened the door to holidays that at least approximated comfort and joy.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven my children were young adults finishing college and grad school, beginning careers, moving away and getting married. Things were bound to change even if we hadn’t lost him. But adding deep sorrow, grief and the trauma of sudden death made adjustments that much harder, depleted our emotional and psychological reserves and meant we were all giant walking nerves.

The first year we simply endured.

In the years since there has been one or more special circumstances to complicate working out new traditions. We’ve had two December graduations, a deployment and serious family illnesses among other things.

So I’m still not “in the swing” although I do manage to set up a small tree and enjoy finding gifts for the ones I love to tuck underneath.

The only thing that’s remained consistent is an ongoing need for flexibility and a desperate need to give and receive grace!

I try hard to have conversations about particulars as early as possible (usually September or October) with an honest understanding that things can and WILL change. One thing I’ve learned (the hard way!) is that putting off the inevitable calendar comparison and setting at least approximate dates only makes everything worse.

How to Get Through the Holidays – Sequoit Media

Trust me, being the one to make these phone calls and navigate the emotional waters is a task unto itself! I usually just set aside a day and plan on being exhausted by the end of it.

But it’s easier to have a single point of contact even when it means I’m also the single point of venting for those who are less than pleased with whatever compromise results.

I try to be the most flexible piece of our holiday puzzle even though I do have preferences and favorite foods and an image of what the holiday might look like. My surviving children have career commitments, work schedules and in laws to deal with so I want to free up space for them as much as possible.

If I’m honest it’s not easy.

My heart remains fragile and I spend more days than I’d like crying quietly where no one can see me. But that’s part of being a mama even if you haven’t sent a child ahead to Heaven.

So I ty to embrace the role, bend as much as possible and allow the grace of Jesus to fill my heart and flow through me to others.

I fall down often but keep getting up and trying again.

Holidays can be hard for lots of reasons. Child loss is just one of them.

So for the next few days I’m going to share some old posts that might help others face these next couple months with a little more confidence or at least some comfort knowing they aren’t alone in the struggle.

❤ Melanie

Picking Up The Threads Of An Old Life

Life after child loss can be described in various ways.

But any that ring true convey a sense that in an instant, everything is different, shattered, scattered, obliterated, changed.

Read the rest here: Picking Up The Threads

I Wish I Knew How I’m Doing. I’m Just Not Sure.

People see me, these years and months after Dominic left us and ask, “How are you doing?”

I come up with an answer because that’s the law of conversation-you ask something and I answer, then I ask something and you answer.


Gotta keep that ball rolling.  

If it drops we are both forced to stand there wondering what to do with our bodies, our faces and our thoughts.

But right now, I don’t know HOW I’m doing.

Read the rest here: I Don’t Know How I’m Doing

Bouquet of Blessing

I have the privilege of being trusted with my grandson for over a week while his parents work on getting ready to move.

I recognize not all moms and dads are comfortable leaving their not-yet-two-year-old with grandparents several hundred miles away so I am very thankful my son and his wife are OK with it.

I won’t sugarcoat it and say it’s all rainbows and butterflies. But I will say every minute is a blessing-even the ones that stretch my nerves or my muscles.

I understand NOW what my friends with grandchildren have told me for years-it’s wonderful to be freer from everyday responsibilities and to focus exclusively on relationship and experiences.

When I was a mama to four children six years old and under by age twenty-eight I didn’t have the luxury of spending morning hours exclusively on interactive play.

But now I do.

And it is a lot of fun.

Even when my hand and wrist don’t work as well as they should and screwing on sippy cup lids hurts like all get out. Changing a soaking wet nighttime diaper is a real trick for these arthritic fingers. But my little man is learning to help his ol’ grandmama by lying extra still while I get it done.

I know not every parent on this road of child loss has grandchildren. I didn’t have one until almost five years after Dom ran ahead to Heaven. And I’ll never have one that carries HIS genes, HIS personality, HIS unique quirks.

So it might not be a grandbaby that feels like a blessing in your day.

It might be a pet or a friend or an opportunity to pursue a passion or hobby or pour your life into your community or family.

Whatever it is, take the opportunity to pick those blessings like blossoms, gather them into a bouquet and take a deep sniff.

You’ll be surprised how even a tiny budvase of blessing can spread the fragrance of hope in your life.

And hope helps a heart hold on.

Why I’d Still Choose You

Some of us only felt tiny hands and feet pressing against the inside of our body.  

Some of us saw first steps or first grade. 

Some of us watched our child drive away to college certain it was the beginning of an adventure, not the beginning of the end.

Read the rest here: I’d Still Choose You

Say What You Need To Say. You Might Not Get Another Chance.

Just a couple of days before Dominic left us, I and another one of my kids had a fuss.

He was frustrated and stressed and I was vulnerable and stressed and a few stray words ended up hurting my feelings.

I said, “I can’t talk anymore now”,  and hung up the phone in tears.

He was sorry and I was sorry and we immediately exchanged texts and let the feelings cool so we could resume our conversation the next day.

He sent me flowers.


They were still beautiful when he came home to bury his brother.

Read the rest here: Speak Your Peace-You May Not Get Another Chance

If You’re Tired, Rest. You Can Try Tomorrow

I admit I’m an over achiever. I tend to think that if it needs to be done, I have to be the one to do it.

But you know what? I’m learning that the world won’t fall apart if I take a break.

And I’m tired right now.

Really, really tired.

So I’m going to rest today (and maybe tomorrow!) and the world will keep turning, the sun will rise again.

You can rest too.

I promise. ❤

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